How we can stop the next new virus

For Western observers, the solution seems obvious. How could the all-powerful Chinese government, capable of locking down millions of people within days, not prohibit the wild animal trade completely? But wild animal products represent more than a mere delicacy for many Chinese — using them is a fundamental cultural practice. But the global threat from coronaviruses is too great. China and other governments around the world must act quickly and decisively to end the wild animal trade.

Unless that happens, we predict with confidence that covid-19 will not be the last viral pandemic. There will be others, as long as wild animals are widely exploited for food and for other purposes, whether in China or elsewhere.

The world got off relatively “easily” with SARS: It killed fewer than 1,000 people, compared with seasonal influenza, which globally kills hundreds of thousands each year. Covid-19 has already killed more than 5,000 people. Regardless of the ultimate death toll, it has already staggered the global economy and will adversely impact the lives and livelihoods of millions, if not billions.

The next virus after covid-19 could do much more damage.